lundi 1 février 2010

Wannsee ahoi

I'm so sorry about my recent absence on this blog but to be honest, I've found it a little hard getting back into a regular rhythm again after so long away from work and this may come as a shocking revelation to you but: I haven't been cooking so much. Of course, I still make things but it's often simple and when the light's no good for photographs. I also missed another Daring Bakers' Challenge and promise to do better with that for the rest of the year.

These past few weeks, Berlin has been cold and I don't just mean that you need to wear a hat and gloves. There's the kind of cold wind that blows against your face and makes you feel someone's cutting into your cheeks with a knife. Your hands get numb the second you take off your gloves. The streets have become like an ice skating rink and even though I've now invested in a pair of boots that keep my feet dry, it's not so easy to go for long walks in and around Berlin. Ten days ago though, I decided to brave the arctic conditions and head for Wannsee, the large lake in the west which Kitty Hoff charmingly compares to the sea for Berliners. In summer, it's packed with bathers but I've always preferred its melancholy desertedness out of season. The ferries which carry passengers across to places like the Peacock Island stand empty and stranded on the edge of the white shore. Setting off alone, I looked across to see two figures walking alone into the distance on the ice, so fragile with only a layer of frozen water to support them and the endless winter landscape before them. I wondered if they felt alone or liberated to leave the stress of city life behind for a few moments. I've always been afraid of walking on the ice myself, especially after seeing part 1 of Kieslowski's Dekalog but I would love to travel to the Baltic Sea in winter with a strong breeze, the cries of the seasgulls flying overhead and the restless breaking of waves which carry my thoughts further and further away.

For walking, perhaps Wannsee isn't the best because most of the shore is occupied by boat clubs and villas and by the time I had been walking for a couple of hours, the damp cold seemed to have gotten inside my skin and I perhaps felt colder than ever. Luckily, one of the loveliest places to go is the Liebermann villa where the Berlin artist Max Liebermann used to spend his summer holidays. As I pushed open the door to go inside, I found a girl reading in front of a roaring fire and sat next to her in one of the large armchairs with only the sound of the crackling logs as I closed my eyes and felt the warmth returning and thought of Jane Austen's characters coming in after their carriage rides on a frosty day. I had already heard about the charming café there and I wasn't disappointed. I ordered a hot chocolate with cream and was asked to choose from a stand with little blocks of all kinds of solid chocolate which you then whisk yourself into a steaming glass of hot milk. On such a biting cold day, I felt I really needed dark chocolate with chilli and was also given a small dish with a large amount of fresh, whipped cream to spoon on top. I would have preferred a large slice of warm apple pie for the ultimate comfort food experience but settled for a piece of poppyseed cake with cream. The large bay windows of wood panelled room with its green walls look out onto the garden by the lakeshore. Afterwards, I walked across the deep snow with no other footprints but mine. On the lakeshore, I could hear the laughter of families iceskating and playing games and watched a boat slide whizz by at regular intervals. I would love to return there when the spring colours have started to appear and there are the gentle sunrays glittering on the water.

Returning home, I found it hard to get warm again and settled down on the sofa with a good book and some cinnamon spice tea. The long winter evenings are truly the best time to read. Before going to sleep at night, I take Willy Ronis' Ce Jour-là, brought back from Rennes, a charming book in which he describes what inspired him and the story behnd some of his photos. Ronis' photography has always enchanted me with his timeless pictures of another time and his romantic visions of Paris.

The Zupfkuchen I remade for a film evening last weekend (recipe here)

Winter is also the best time for soup and I decided to try my first recipe from the new favourite cookbook, Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries which I found in my favourite remained bookshop in London. Nigel is officially my new guru; I know that Abbie is already a huge fan and I remember the amazing fish recipe of his she used at one of the lovely evenings in her apartment in Friedrichshain. The Kitchen Diaries is such a pleasure to read, as well as to bake from. It's basically a year's enjoyment of food and flavours throughout the different seasons and I think it's a book I'm going to return to again and again this year. This soup is so easy to make and even if it's not one of my most photogenic creations, it was certainly one the tastiest. Another key advantage is that you don't have the chop the onions, just cut them in half so you don't need to shed a single tear!

French Onion Soup from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries

Serves 4

About 8 medium sized onions
3 tbsp butter
Some salt and pepper to season
1 glass dry white wine
6 cups vegetable stock

1. Peel the onions and slice them in half. Place them in a roasting tin with the butter and some salt and pepper. Cook at 180°C until soft and golden (you may need to turn them regularly to stop them burning).
2. When they're done, remove from the oven and cut them into large segments. Bring them to the boil in a large saucepan with the wine until the wine has almost evaporated then pour in the vegetable stock and bring the boil again. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes then serve with fresh, crusty bread and some cheese if you like.

24 commentaires:

  1. Absolutely breathtaking photos, Vanessa! I almost felt you thawing out when you saw that roaring fireplace and a comfy chair.
    Interesting onion soup- we usually think of it with sliced onions and a big chunk of cheese-laden bread in the middle. I kind of like this simple recipe.

  2. That is a beautiful place! Your pictures are amazing!

    Great looking food. What a comforting soup. Yummy!



  3. C'est la première soupe que j'ai cuisinée (enfin, sans vin blanc, mais avec du lait) parce que c'était un souvenir d'enfance (et le lait était indiqué sur le gros livre antique que m'avait donné ma mère).
    La neige, la crème : les rapprochements sont chouettes !

  4. que ces photos sont superbes !!!
    elles me donnent froids quand je vois aux infos le temps en Allemagne, j'arrête de râler !!!
    même si la ville rose est gelée il ne faut pas pousser !!!

    je suis un peu comme toi, après les fêtes, je manque un peu de temps pour cuisiner, simple, rapide composent nos menus !!!

    bonne journée glaciale mais j'espère gourmande


  5. Beautiful Wannsee... it reminds me of a little trip I took with my boyfriend by the end of March last year... if you wish to have a look at it...

    You're really brave, because I would never dare going there with this awful icy wind blowing in Berlin right now...

    This café sounds marvelous, actually - but how do you manage to stay thin? :-) Ah, yes, the freezing cold... the best recipe to stay in shape here! Eat and freeze!

    I loved your pictures - and I'm eager to taste your cuisine very soon, dear Vanessa!

  6. @Barbara - Oh, yes it was so wonderful with the fire. The trouble was I didn't want to go out again! I absolutely hate chopping onions because they make me cry so much and this recipe offers the perfect solution.
    @Rosa - Thanks so much so your lovely comments.
    @Rose - Quelle coïncidence alors! C'est une soupe que j'adore; je n'aurais jamais pensé à utiliser du lait mais la prochaine fois, pourquoi pas?
    @Virginie - Oh merci! A Berlin en ce moment il fait un peu plus chaud heureusement et avec un peu de neige fraiche, on arrive à marcher plus facilement. J'ai un peu plus de temps cette semaine et j'en profite bien pour faire la cuisine. Bonne journée à toi aussi.
    @Magda - Your post on Wannsee is so beautiful - thanks for sending me the link. I think I'll have to go through some more of your archives so I don't miss out! But how do you know I'm thin? ;-) Actually, I'm fairly small and curvy so need to be careful. Unfortunately, the cold doesn't help much to lose weight so I do a lot of exercise to compensate. In my family, we all have big appetites (except my parents) and are sporty.

    It's still cold but not as bad as a few days ago I think. That trip to Wannsee made me so cold that I couldn't face going out again for the rest of the day. I can't wait to meet you finally and hope my cooking lives up to your expectations!

  7. Beautiful pictures, beautiful post, as usual. Votre blog donne envie de larguer les amarres pour partir a Berlin, malgre le froid glacial !! J'aime beaucoup ces photos "desertes" et ces couleurs sans vraie couleur. Quel talent...
    A bientot,

  8. Chocolate is about the only thing that works with this cold.. am I the only one to be tired of it! My fingers are so numb I can't blog (and that is just the perfect excuse!)

  9. I'm sure it will! I'll exercise afterwards then :-)

  10. Bonjour Vanessa, tes photos sont toujours aussi magnifique et celle avec le voilier est une de mes préférés. Chez nous aussi ont a été frappé par le froid mais la neige nous a laissé tombé et il n'y a pas de glace une chance pour nous. Mais le froid nous imprègne jusqu'aux os... J'espère que tu te réchauffes un peu surtout avec cette bonne soupe.

    Passe une belle journée.
    Josée Bisous

  11. @Laurence - Je suis très touchée par votre commentaire - merci! En fait, j'avais peur que le gens trouvent ces photos un peu trop tristes avec le temps glacial.
    @Pia - Let's face it, we don't really need an excuse for chocolate! I don't mind the cold as much as the icy streets in Berlin. It goes warmer and colder and every time, I pray I won't fall and break anything because I'm pretty clumsy on snow at the best of times.
    @Magda - I'm working on a dessert right now which will be a real calorie bomb. Can't wait till tomorrow!
    @Josée - Merci chère Josée pour ton commentaire adorable. J'espère que ça va avec le froid - on n'a pas très envie de sortir ici car les rue sont très glissantes et apparemment ils n'ont plus de sel. J'en profite pour lire et faire la cuisine et je n'ai pas oublié le tag que tu m'as donné non plus. Bon week-end!

  12. That cake and cream looks so good.

  13. superbes superbes photos! en particulier la première et celle du bateau avant la crème, tu devrais les tirer.
    En revanche, je m'insurge totalement contre cette soupe à l'oignon NON GRATINEE !
    bientôt le festival du film à berlin, non ? tu y vas ?

  14. @Des - It was really delicious, especially the hot chocolate and I loved being able to make it the way I wanted to.
    @Sarah Lou - Merci, merci vraiment, je suis super flattée :-) Ah oui, la soupe non gratinée. En fait, j'ai préparé des croutons avec du fromage pour ma soupe mais ils n'étaient pas très photogènes. Mais évidemment, j'aurais du penser que cette image ne plairait pas aux français!
    J'ai vraiment hâte d'aller à ce festival car jusqu'à maintenant je n'y suis jamais allée (quelle honte pour une cinéphile berlinoise

  15. de si belles photos, comme toujours! C'est si beau la neige!! Dommage qu'il faille atteindre des température invivables pour en avoir :-)

  16. Bonjour,
    Oui, vos photos sont un peu tristes, mais cela fait partie de leur charme. On y sent bien la solitude des lieux. Une photo qui rend l'image et le sentiment en meme temps est assez magique. C'est comme une peinture, si elle ne degage qu'une simple image, sans evoquer une ambiance ou un caractere, elle manque un peu son objectif. En tout cas, a mon avis, et je trouve que rendre l'ambiance est souvent la chose la plus difficile qui soit en art.
    A bientot,

  17. Gorgeous pictures... I kind of wish we had snow here. So do all the Olympic athletes, for sure :) But in the meantime, I'll have to swap your hot chocolate for a simple cup of coffee in the sun. Isn't the world upside down these days? Europe is freezing and Vancouver is enjoying the Spring...

  18. @Sarah - Merci ma chère Sarah! C'est vrai que les paysages ont l'air magique, surtout dans les bois mais maintenant on a plutôt le verglas et ça me donne envie du printemps.
    @Laurence - Merci de votre longue réponse et de vos mots si gentils. Oui, je trouve aussi que ce n'est pas toujours évident de rendre l'ambiance d'un lieu. Je jette pas mal de photos parce que je n'y arrive pas et puis je pense que ça marche mieux si on essaie de photographier des bribes où de petites choses. Mais je suis quand même ravie que vous aimiez mes images!
    @Julie - I have a hard time imagining Berlin without the snow or in fact Europe without it as I had it too in Paris and the UK which has never happened to me before. As for spring, that seems like a million miles away and apparently we're in for 6 more weeks of winter, though maybe they're basing their predictions on Groundhog Day ;-)

  19. Tres joli billet, la balade dans la neige, seule, le grand feu dans la cheminee, on entendrait presque le silenece et les craquements su feu. Tu nous donnerais presque envie de rester en hiver.

  20. Merci Gracienne! Il y a une partie de moi qui aime bien l'hiver, même si le soleil me manque à Berlin. C'est surtout le confort et la chaleur de longues soirées au coin du feu avec des plats chauds que j'apprécie.

  21. So dense with atmosphere! Thank you for these remarkable photos, they bolster my desire to visit Berlin's southwestern fringe today. I've only been to the Liebermann villa in the late spring and a roaring fire sounds like a dream come true. So glad to have discovered your blog!

  22. Hey there! Thanks so much for leaving me a comment. I just love your photos so feel very honoured that you said such nice things about mine. I'd love to return to the Liebermann villa in spring; I think the it's a really special place and with the flowers, it must be amazing. But I still have fond memories of my visit there that day, even if it was freezing, with the thick layer of snow in the garden and the comfort of being inside looking out to the frozen lake.

  23. Ton commentaire me fait super plaisir car je viens de voir tes photos qui sont vraiment belles et j'admire énormément ce que tu fais.